M4 Antics

There’s always been a lot of debate over the M4 carbine, and whether it should be replaced or what can be done to improve it.

One of the complaints is that it overheats after firing several magazines of rounds.

Turns out, Colt and the Army are taking a look at that issue. The carbine that most troops carry is the M4. The M4 can fire either semi-automatically, or in 3 round bursts. But the M4 also comes in the M4A1 version, that can fire either semi-automatically, or in a full-auto mode. The M4A1 is issued to special operations forces. One difference between the two variants is that the A1 has a somewhat heavier barrel to cope with the heat stresses of automatic fire.

What happens when you fire a lot of ammo through an M4 very rapidly? Take a look.  Colt modified an M4 to fire full auto, then put it through a stress test to destruction. I’m frankly a little surprised it failed that fast.

It looks like new production M4’s will feature the heavier barrel of the M4A1, but whether they will retrofit the heavier barrel to existing carbines is an open question.

In my own humble experience, I fired 7 30-round magazines on full auto through an M16A1 (with its notoriously light barrel) and it was getting kinda glow-y. And the handguards were smoking. And the gas tube was white hot. But the barrel didn’t rupture. Then again, I was shooting the relatively anemic M193 round, not the heavier M855.

Anybody else out there ever have a barrel problem with an M16/M4?

H/T: Lex

I’m looking forward to this…


Sunday night on the History Channel.

Our Dad missed WWII by about a year, but other family members fought the whole war through (one uncle was at Pearl Harbor) and as a history buff, you just can’t avoid being interested in the war. I’ve seen a goodly amount of the clips in the trailer, but over the course of 10 hours, there’s sure to be plenty of footage that is new to me.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Finally, technology has brought simulation to a level of realism that has heretofore been unattainable.


[vodpod id=Groupvideo.3891002&w=425&h=350&fv=image%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.theonion.com%252Fcontent%252Ffiles%252Fimages%252FMODERN_WARFARE_ARTICLE_11_9.jpg%26videoid%3D99070%26title%3DUltra-Realistic%2520Modern%2520Warfare%2520Game%2520Features%2520Awaiting%2520Orders%252C%2520Repairing%2520Trucks]

Shamelessly stolen from Blackfive.




Down in the comments of this post, commenter Kevin mentioned ACOGs. That naturally raises the question, “What’s an ACOG?”

ACOG is the acronym for Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight. Trijicon, Inc. has made a line of specialty gunsights for the M-16/M-4 family of weapons for years now. And last year, after using a variety of different products from different manufacturers, the Army settled on the ACOG as the primary sight for the M-4.

Back in the Stone Age, when I was a grunt, all small arms, with the exception of sniper weapons, only had “iron sights.” They were fairly accurate, but took quite a bit of training to master. Further, they were very difficult to use in low light, such as early in the morning and late in the evening. They were of course, next to useless at night.

Iron sights on the M16A2
Iron sights on the M16A2

Traditionally, the Army (and to a lesser extent, the Marines) have been leery of adopting optical gunsights, mostly because of their perceived fragility. The other big factor was that they cost money. Now, in an era when a jet can cost more than the GDP of many small countries, you’d think a few hundred bucks for a scope would not matter. But that’s not how the defense budget works. When the Army only has a limited amount of money to buy stuff, they tend to focus on the big ticket items. Small stuff, like small arms and their accessories, tends to get pushed aside.

One of the consequences of the Army going into Afghanistan and Iraq was that there was a sudden push to make sure our troops had what they really needed in terms of all their gear. That freed up a lot of money for things that otherwise just weren’t going to be bought. Grunts have been watching police and recreational shooters use combat optics on their rifles for nearly 30 years. Not surprisingly, there was a big push to update the Army with combat optics.

Now, a rifle scope is actually not what you really want in most firefights. A scope actually narrows your vision and can even make it harder to see the target. But combat optics use what are called “reflex sights” that are meant to be used with both eyes open. This greatly aids in target acquisition and generally keeping up ones situational awareness.

The first big batch of combat optics was the M68 Close Combat Optic, or CCO. Unlike the crosshairs of a traditional scope, the reticle of a CCO is illuminated, making it easier to see, and far more instinctive to use. There was just a simple red dot. Put the dot on the bad guy, pull the trigger, make the bad guy go away. The CCO didn’t even magnify. It just made it easier and faster to aim. About the only drawback to the CCO is that it takes batteries to illuminate the “death dot”, and grunts already have enough to carry, without having to worry about carrying extra batteries.


Next up, and recently standardized is the M150 RCO (Rifle Combat Optic). This is the Army name for Trijicon’s Advanced Combat Optic Gunsight. The ACOG works along pretty much the same lines as the CCO, but provides some magnification (either 3.5X or 4X) and doesn’t need batteries. It uses radioactive tritium to provide the illumination for the reticle.

ACOG, or M150 RCO
ACOG, or M150 RCO

Variations of the CCO and the ACOG are also mounted on the M249 SAW and the M240 medium machine gun.


We occasionally get questions from our readers. Unlike Al Gore, we think this is a good thing. In the comments of the last post, reader Kevin Creighton asks:

Ok, this is quasi-related and may be out of your area of expertise, but when I flew into Baltimore-Washington International last year and saw a lot of soldiers transiting thru the airport with rifle cases strapped on to their baggage carts.

How are rifles and sidearms handed out in the Army? Does each infantryman get their own rifle to have and to hold, or are they doled out on a first-come, first-served basis? I figure the SpecOps crowd probably does things differently and snipers/Designated Marksmen as well, but what is the process to get the average soldier get a rifle when they need one?

Good question. This is the kind of thing people who aren’t familiar with the Army want to know, and which I’m happy to address.

Each company sized unit in the Army is of course, organized along the lines of a Table of Organization and Equipment, or TO&E, which specifies how many troops of which grades and specialties that it is supposed to have, as well as all the equipment is is allocated, from Bradley Fighting Vehicles to 3/4″ ratchet wrenches.  Of course, this list also includes all the weapons that the company possesses.

When a company has a change of command, as they tend to do every 18-24 months, one thing that occurs is that the outgoing CO and the incoming CO jointly hold an inventory of every single piece of gear in the entire company. Indeed, the supply sergeant of a company isn’t there so much to order stuff, but rather to keep track of what is on hand. After the inventory, the new CO will sign a receipt for all the equipment. He in turn, has his subordinates sign a further receipt for the equipment they use. For instance, the CO has a receipt for all 13 Bradleys in the company, then has each platoon leader sign for their 4 Bradleys. The platoon leader then has the drivers for each Bradley sign for their vehicle.  Every piece of equipment in the Army? Someone has signed for it and is responsible for it. Lose it? You just bought it.

When you leave a unit, you have to turn in all the equipment. For large items, like a Bradley, this is simply a matter or signing it over to the next driver. Kinda hard to misplace one. But it’s a foolish driver who signs for a Bradley that doesn’t make a very, very close inventory of all the ancillary equipment, such as the tools that come with it. No sense buying wrenches and sockets that someone else lost.

Weapons are a wee bit different. Guns, and to some extent, night vision devices, are what the Army calls “sensitive items”. They get a little testy if you lose one. In fact, if you misplace a weapon during training stateside, pretty much the whole post will be locked down until it is found. If you’re out in the field, you aren’t going home until the weapon is recovered. Units have been known to spend an entire month out in the field, doing nothing but combing the ground looking for a rifle. So, don’t lose your weapon.

Now, to answer Kevin’s question, let’s take a young grunt reporting in to his first unit as an example. PFC Snuffy is assigned to a light infantry company. The First Sergeant assigns him to the 1st Platoon, and the 1st Platoon Sergeant decides to assign him as a rifleman in the 1st Squad, Alpha Fire Team. As a rifleman, his assigned weapon will be the M-4 carbine. Our platoon sergeant will inform the company armorer that PFC Snuffy needs to be assigned an M-4. The armorer will take a look at his list of unassigned carbines, and assign one to PFC Snuffy. So far, this is all a paper transaction. Snuffy hasn’t even seen the weapon. Heck, he might still not have arrived at the company yet. One of the first priorities for Snuffy will be to take a trip to the range. He’ll edraw his assigned M-4, zero the weapon by firing it at a  short range target and aligning the sights until the rounds are striking where he’s aiming, then go to the qualification range and shoot for record with that weapon.

So long as PFC Snuffy is assigned as a rifleman in that company, he’ll have that weapon assigned as his responsibility. He’ll sign for it every time he draws it from the company arms room. He’s responsible for keeping it clean and maintained. He’ll have to qualify with it every six months.  If PFC Snuffy is later assigned as a M249 SAW gunner, he’ll be assigned one of those, and will similarly zero and qualify with that weapon. He’ll clean and maintain it.

Occasionally, the pressures of duty will dictate that someone carry a weapon that isn’t their normal assigned weapon. Let’s say that Snuffy’s team is in the field. The normal SAW gunner is away attending an Army course, and not available to go to the field. PFC Snuffy might be termporarily assigned to act as a SAW gunner for this trip to the woods. He’ll sign out SPC Jones SAW and perform those duties. Afterwards, he’ll get to enjoy the thrill of stripping and cleaning a SAW. But his normal assigned weapon still awaits him.

Let’s take a personal example from my days in Colorado, at Ft. Carson. When I arrived at A/1-12IN, I was  a Specialist (E-4) assigned as a Rifleman/Dragon Gunner for the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon. I was duly assigned an M-16A2 rifle (S/N 1714966, if I recall…). Soon after my arrival, I was promoted to Sergeant (E-5) and assigned as team leader for one of the two fire teams in 1st Squad. As a team leader is supposed to be armed with the rifle, I didn’t change my assigned weapon. I was later assigned as a gunner for a Bradley, and still later as a Bradley Commander. All these positions are normally armed with the rifle, so I never changed my assigned weapon. But when I left the company and moved to a different unit, I left the rifle behind.

To answer Kevin’s question in  a shorter form, what you do for Uncle Sam in large part determines what you are armed with.

As to the Designated Marksmen part of the question, what generally happens is that the company will have a given number of DM rifles, and the company will distribute those between the platoons, who will then choose the troops best suited for the job. There’s not a real hard and fast doctrine to this. There’s bound to be a good deal of latitude extended to very low levels of command to choose who shoots what. But as  a rule, a young grunt doesn’t have much say in what he ends up carrying. That’s up to the needs of the platoon he’s in.